Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality for Manufacturers

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality:

Virtual reality vs augmented reality are two terms that get compared a lot in modern manufacturing. But what are they? What’s the difference between the two? These are just a few questions that many ask about the current state of visualization, luckily for you, we’ve got the answers you need!  

Immersive experiences are becoming more and more common in modern visualization. It is possible to cluster the different technologies and approaches depending on the amount of virtual/digital content that is used for the visualization. 


(Image of all Extended Reality technologies) 

Extended Reality (XR) refers to all real and virtual world combinations and is used as an umbrella term for AR, MR, and VR.   

Virtual Reality for Manufacturers 

Virtual reality has quite a long history and describes a type of visualization that is completely digital and does not include anything directly captured from the real world anymore. On top of the content, the other important characteristic of this approach is that it is experienced by using special head-mounted devices (HMD or Headset) to look at the visualization.   

These headsets provide the true impressiveness of this approach. By completely changing reality and fully diving into 360° virtual reality. Users experience the digital world as “real”. It is possible to navigate and move in that digital world and experience everything as if it would real. 

(Image of a Virtual Reality installation) 

Virtual Reality itself is a spectrum of different variants  

From simple WebVR providing simple VR experiences in a web browser to fully immersive experiences including more senses than just vision, for example, audio.  

Several vendors and technologies are available and in development making the VR landscape a bit unclear. A wide range of stationary and mobile systems in different price segments are available.   

Stationary systems provide higher performance and more sensors to increase immersion but need cables to connect the headset with a computer and for power. Mobile devices are handier since the computer and the power source are integrated but are not suited for every purpose.  

The focus for Virtual Reality is the consumer market and especially the gaming industry. Besides this main area of focus, VR is mainly used in designing and engineering phases in manufacturing, for training and education, planning, and simulation purposes.  

VR is also highlighted at tradeshows, and as digital showrooms for experiencing architectures and interiors where this technology enables users to experience their designed spaces. Especially in a sales discussion, VR can be a problem because of its occlusion of the user from everyone else it is likely to “lose” the customer in the actual experience, making the actual sales process minor matter.  

Virtual Reality is not an ad-hoc visualization. Special and relatively expensive hardware (VR headsets) are necessary, the environment in which the experience is used needs to be prepared and users need experience with the technology itself to use it properly and to enjoy it. Especially the isolation factor when using VR glasses is something to get used to and to consider when using virtual reality. In many situations it is crucial to directly communicate with others not part of the experience, have eye contact, and interpret reactions and emotions.                             

Augmented Reality for Manufacturers 

In contrast to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is not completely digital, it is extending the real world with virtual content. By overlaying virtual objects on top of the image captured with a camera, the real world becomes extended.  

Every modern smartphone or tablet can execute augmented reality applications which make the technology much more accessible than virtual reality which always requires additional and specific hardware and training. 

(Image of a principal tablet setup) 

On the other side, since the augmented reality visualization only takes place on the smartphone or tablet screen, the immersive effect is much less compared to wearing a full occluding VR headset.  

AR can be differentiated into Marker-based and Markerless 

Using a marker to define the spot where the virtual object will be placed has been the first AR variant and is therefore supported by older mobile devices. If the marker is captured by the camera, the virtual object is located at this position.   

Markerless AR is possible with modern mobile devices and automatically detect surfaces like the floor or tables and positions the virtual objects on these surfaces. It does not require any prior preparations (like providing and placing markers) and the virtual objects stay in their position even if the camera is not looking at this spot.   

Besides the impressive marketing aspects, operations and services like repair guidance are very common use cases for Augmented Reality. Additionally, due to is easy and fast accessibility, Augmented Reality is best to use for simple and straightforward product presentations and experiences for a broad audience.   

Another important benefit of Augmented Reality is the fact that the virtual object can be visualized in its desired destination. Design and aesthetic questions can be answered directly, and it is also possible to verify real-life dimensions. General spacing and layout questions can be answered immediately without providing any physical and costly product examples. 


(Images of different AR visualizations via Tructon) 

Now, AR is only reliably possible via dedicated mobile Apps. Another alternative is currently in development, enabling AR right from the Browser, called WebXR, without any specific app. This will make AR content standard, very similar to regular 3D content which is getting more popular lately by Google integrating and including 3D real-time visualization right in their search results and displaying it directly in the browser.  

Mixed Reality for Manufacturers 

Mixed Reality is the latest technology and extends Augmented Reality so that virtual content can recognize real-world objects allowing physical objects to interact with virtual ones. Changing or adjusting objects in the real world will have an influence on virtual objects as well. For example, moving an object will automatically move attached virtual objects as well or real-world objects are able to overly and occlude virtual ones to increase impressiveness and plausibility.   

MR is enabled by using a transparent headset that overlays the virtual objects over the real world. The most prominent representative for Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. Using a headset has the advantage compared to AR that the hands are free which makes MR especially attractive for use cases like training and service. Since it is a quite new technology, available hardware (like Microsoft HoloLens or MagicLeap) is still expensive and lacks expectations regarding performance. Nevertheless, this technology has great potential, especially for service when performance, power, and Field-of-view problems are solved, and the standard has been established.  

Now that you’ve got a quick lesson on Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality with a bonus of Mixed Reality, it’s time to learn more about how visualizations can change how you sell your manufacturing products. Check out our ultimate visualization guide for a deeper look, click for your direct download:   

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